Monday, March 03, 2008


"The War on Poverty is over, and the poor lost"

"The War on Poverty is over, and the poor lost."

-- Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp

In 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson set up the Kerner Commission to study the racial turmoil that was plaguing the United States in the late 1960s. The commission reported back to the president with solutions for chronic unemployment and poverty in the black community, most of which were new and expanded federal programs.

Forty years after the Kerner Commission warned the country was heading toward "two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal," the Eisenhower Foundation finds the country has failed to meet the goals laid out by the presidential commission. It has proposed solutions for chronic unemployment and poverty in the black community, most of which are new and expanded federal programs.

Since LBJ declared his War on Poverty, the United States has spent over $6 trillion on anti-poverty programs, with few successes to cite along the way. It simply amazes me that liberal outfits like the Eisenhower Foundation still think that poverty can be ended simply by federal spending and federal spending alone. I'm amazed, but not surprised.

Unfortunately, most liberals really have no clue as to what causes persistent poverty. Contrary to the assertions of the we-haven't-spent-enough crowd, poverty in America is primarily a cultural phenomenon, driven by a shattered work ethic and sexual irresponsibility.

According to a January 2004 study published by the Heritage Foundation's welfare expert, Robert Rector, the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work annually, or about 16 hours a week. This number holds true in good economic times and bad, because, as Rector points out, "it is a factor of attitudes toward work rather than the availability of jobs. If the amount of work in these households were equivalent to one adult working 40 hours a week, almost 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of poverty."

Furthermore, mandating an ever-increasing minimum wage, as the Eisenhower Foundation proposes, will not miraculously enrich those living in poverty. If an individual is only working 16 hours a week, a three or four dollar increase in the minimum wage isn't going to help much. It is the amount of work that matters. If a single mother works full time at the minimum wage, and if she takes advantage of such income supplements as the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps, she will not be poor. And if single mothers married and insisted that their husbands go to work, three-quarters of poor children would be lifted out of poverty.

The perfect anti-poverty program has two prongs: restore the work ethic and encourage marriage. I cannot think of one liberal who has endorsed such a measure. Liberals can bicker over how to fashion a program to achieve these goals. However, any weepy liberal who's not talking abut how to increase work and marriage among the poor shouldn't be taken seriously.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?